Michael Adams era a mixed bag at UGA

Michael Adams with two of the positives he brought to UGA: Greg McGarity and Mark Richt. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Michael Adams with two of the positives he brought to UGA: Greg McGarity and Mark Richt. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

I know the general knee-jerk reaction among Dawgs fans at the impending retirement of UGA President Michael Adams is pure elation. As soon as the word spread on Facebook and Twitter Wednesday afternoon, the hoorahs erupted.

But while Adams may have deserved those boos that would chorus from the stands whenever he took the field, assessing him as the leader of the state’s flagship university is much more of a mixed bag.

Yeah, he meddled initially in athletics too much. On the plus side, he did push for Jim Donnan to be fired, enabling Georgia to get Mark Richt as head coach. Whatever you think of Richt in recent years, there’s no denying he knocked the lid off for the slumbering UGA football program.

As was so often the case with Adams, though, there was more to the story than that. After the firing it came out that Adams also had cut a secret $250,000 side deal with Donnan without his athletic director’s knowledge.

Also on the debit side, Adams pushed for the hiring of Jim Harrick despite the stench of his reputation, and that proved to be a disaster of epic proportions for UGA basketball.

And then there was the Vince Dooley affair. While there may have been a good case to be made that it was time for Dooley to retire, Adams totally botched the way that was handled — unusual for a guy with a public relations background.

The resulting furor hurt the university and distracted Adams as he feuded with Dooley partisans leading the UGA Foundation. While the Regents ended up backing Adams fully, a schism was left in the Bulldog Nation.

Adams backed off from such direct interference at Butts-Mehre in recent years, turning his attention to the national athletics scene in an unsuccessful bid to head the NCAA and in campaigning for a major college football playoff, but the die had been cast as far as how he forever will be perceived by a large portion of UGA fans.

Of course, there were legitimate questions about Adams’ leadership of UGA and his spending habits that had nothing to do with athletics, as detailed in Rich Whitt’s 2009 book “Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia.” When the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate voted no confidence in Adams in 2004, that was hardly Dooley’s constituency speaking.

Adams survived all that, though, and presided over the tremendous academic rise of UGA as one of the nation’s Top 20 public institutions of higher education, even if his detractors could point out that was mainly thanks to the HOPE scholarship helping retain the state’s best and brightest students. And, of course, now that the Legislature has cut back severely on university funding and HOPE has been limited, that newly burnished reputation is threatenened.

However, full credit is due to Adams for remaking the campus with a billion dollars in new construction and a thoughtful but aggressive use of green space. I recently was talking with a UGA grad who had visited Athens for the first time in 10 years and she couldn’t believe the transformation of the campus.

And back on the athletics side, while you might argue with his stance setting higher standards in behavior for UGA athletes than many competing schools have, Adams’ handling of the Damon Evans debacle was swift and sure and he made a fine hire in Athens native Greg McGarity as his third athletic director.

Still, Adams’ most lasting legacy may prove to be the establishment of a medical campus in Athens and, flying in the face of opposition from North Avenue, his insistence on establishing a college of engineering at UGA.

Those moves, especially the medical campus, have the potential to be the driving force behind the University of Georgia’s growth over the next few decades.

So, no, overall I wasn’t a fan of Adams. A university president as divisive as he was ends up doing more harm than good. But it’s too simplistic to write him off as simply the cardboard villain that many of the school’s athletics fans tend to see when they look at him.

Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

94 comments Add your comment

Matthew Sanders

May 3rd, 2012
10:14 am

Worst frat boy haircut ever.


May 3rd, 2012
10:19 am

When I saw this posted yesterday afternoon on the AJC website, nothing but a big grin appeared on my face. The botched handling of Coach Dooley’s retirement, the secret deal on ousting Jim Donnan, then the furor over the hiring of playboy Damon Evans, were all negatives in Adams legacy. The school overall prospered itself with his feats, but from a sports side view from myself===So Long, Goodbye, Don’t let the door hit ya where the DAWG bit ya….


May 3rd, 2012
10:32 am

“Michael Adams with two of the positives he brought to UGA: Greg McGarity and Mark Richt”

Those were positive? Still over thirty years and counting.


May 3rd, 2012
10:34 am

I have very mixed emotions about his departure. Sure…I think it is HIGH TIME he left. But, he did put UGA on a different plateau academically. I think he learned a few lessons from the early rough days with the athletic department. Many fans often reminded him of the mistakes he made with their middle fingers as he pulled out of the presidents parking spot at Sanford Stadium. But, in the last few years he does deserve the credit Bill bestows upon him for his handling of the Damon Evans situation and the hiring of Greg McGarity. He has seemed to leave the decisions within the athletic department to the professionals that have been hired to run it. I cannot argue with that. But, his handling of Vince Dooley is the ultimate thorn in his career with me as a Dawg fan. In my eyes, he spit in the face of the career of the man that built UGA athletics to where it is today. I’m glad Adams will ultimately be in the rear view.


May 3rd, 2012
10:39 am

“Adams also had cut a secret $250,000 side deal with Donnan”

So? He also has a very public deal in place with Mark “I can win games – just not big games” Richt for over $3,000,000 a year. Both are scams, but Richt’s is far more expensive.


May 3rd, 2012
10:46 am

SSI – One pathetic troll!!!

Adams Out!!!

May 3rd, 2012
10:49 am

good riddance! Ga needs to hire a president who is a bulldog graduate and not some elitist academic who doesn’t support the ath dept and football team.


May 3rd, 2012
10:51 am

“a disaster of epic proportions for UGA basketball”

What? They did not need Adams to acheive that. UGA basketball is fully capable of accomplishing that feat all on their own.

Columbus Dawg

May 3rd, 2012
11:03 am

Bill, I realize that you think highly of McGarity, and he may well end up being a great A.D., but there are a lot of folks wondering just what the hold up is on the contracts not yet being signed by Richt and Grantham. There is speculation that there is something in Richt’s new contract about expectations of UGA’s football program, and that he is reluctant to sign, and that Grantham may be worried that he will be run off with Richt if he is let go. I would not blame Grantham if this were the case, because he is doing a great job at UGA, and is building up to get a head coaching job in the college ranks, or at least a top DC job in NFL. Richt on the other hand has no cards. The ten wins against clearly inferior teams coupled with losses to every decent team he faced in 2011 has not given Richt a formidable hand in many people’s eyes, and are looking at it as”Richt needs to take what he can get at this point”, as I heard one booster put it the other day. The people of the state of Georgia should be informed about what is going on in at the STATE university, without everything being kept so hush, hush like the Obama regime does it. Someone with some balls needs to look into this now, so that the taxpayers of Georgia are not kept in the dark, just like with the side deal with Donnan.

Desert Fox

May 3rd, 2012
11:04 am

A school of engineering and med school would be a prestigious addition to the universites curriculum. would increase revenue and enrollment.


May 3rd, 2012
11:12 am

Folks will probably think I’m being selfish and petty. But GAMEDAY PARKING is the phrase that comes to mind when I hear the name Adams.


May 3rd, 2012
11:26 am

Good riddance. I booed him every time he walked through the student section. COMPLETELY out of touch with the student body.


May 3rd, 2012
11:42 am

A billion dollars in growth under his watch. Paid for by who? Taxpayers and students paying three times the amount of tuition that students paid little more than a decade ago. Will somebody answer the question why huge spending on universities and unchecked growth is a good thing? Who benefits? Who pays for it? The students who make up 1 trillion dollars in student debt that’s who. The people at the helm of these universities were given a blank check for two decades and an entire generation will be saddled with the debt.


May 3rd, 2012
11:47 am

Adams…………….burppppppppppppp….pootttttttttttt…oh crap

UGA Insider

May 3rd, 2012
11:47 am

Write your governor and tell him Billy Payne can do the job!

UGA Insider

May 3rd, 2012
11:50 am

I could see CMR retiring after this season given this news.


May 3rd, 2012
11:58 am

I was a student when Adams came in. He really transformed the University, and mostly for the good. His battle with athletics and boosters was unpopular, but he sure did make a lot happen at UGA. Who’s next?


May 3rd, 2012
11:59 am

@ Insider — What? CMR has to be thrilled. I would think at least the “random” drug testing might not be so “random” any more. I have a hard time envisioning whoever his replacement ends up being as much of a meddler as Adams was.

Big Albany Dawg

May 3rd, 2012
12:25 pm

Bill, What was behind the “secret $250,000 side deal with Donnan” all about? Several have mentioned this in articles, but no details. Do tell…!


May 3rd, 2012
12:29 pm

I’m with VillaRicaDAWG on the GAME DAY PARKING!! Every year it gets worse and more complicated. This year instead of just being able to by my parking pass I have to enter a lottery…WTH. I pay a lot of money for my season tickets, I should be able to get somewhere to park to see the Dawgs play. With Adams around, parking has been worse, more and more restrooms are closed, more rules on tailgating but the cost keeps going up. Plus the cost of attending college is crazy. See ya Mike!


May 3rd, 2012
12:43 pm

now maybe we’ll get a president who will get us a good football coach


May 3rd, 2012
12:44 pm

offer saben or spurrier $10 m a year to be our president/ coach

Columbia Dawg

May 3rd, 2012
12:53 pm

SSIgator: How pathetic are you? You come on the Georgia blogs all the time and post random crap. Get a life, you obsessed little troll. Go figure why Will Muschamp will never win at Florida, or maybe why Billy Donovan hasn’t won anything in 5 years. Your Georgia obsession suggests you need some real medical attention.

pooh p

May 3rd, 2012
1:04 pm

Adams was a very good president and actually made UGA one of the few degrees from SEC schools that are worth something. Just because he didn’t wear overalls and scream “GO DAWGS” like a drunken oaf didn’t mean he was awful. I’m sure that the dude who paints his head at every game would be some of you people’s idea of the perfect school president.

the sad thing is...

May 3rd, 2012
1:14 pm

ahmen, pooh p…trash fanbase …


May 3rd, 2012
1:16 pm

OK now we can go SPEND the majority of the Athletic Dept. Budget on FOOTBALL. I’ll continue to repeat 2 things: 1. UGA makes the most money in the SEC so we should spend the most on FOOTBALL. 2. From Board of Regents down to the ball boys if you’re not helping us WIN National Championships then GET OUT! The main person causing #1 which wasn’t helping #2 is leaving so let’s replace him with someone that will do the right & logical thing! Football is paying the freight so for the most profitable Athletic Dept. in the SEC so NO OTHER School should EVER out spend US!!! Let’s get an Indoor Practice Facility built ASAP! Then go renovate Sanford’s concourses into an NFL style stadium like Alabama, Auburn, LSU & Tennessee have! GO DAWGS! GATA!


May 3rd, 2012
1:28 pm

This blog will be a good case study in the difference between a football factory and an academic institution.


May 3rd, 2012
2:50 pm

Unrelated to football, as a Tech student I am still angry about UGA establishing an engineering program, not because I think it will ever outrank Tech’s, but because engineering programs of any caliber requires a ton of funding to start and make into a legitimate program, and that money could have gone to Tech to improve our program even further.


May 3rd, 2012
3:06 pm

As someone who has seen MCG suffer since UGA opened their branch. I think expanding the services may help UGA but overall hurts the rest of the state. There are only so many education dollars and MCG is an established highly regarded medical school. Since UGA opened their branch the name of MCG has been changed as well as combining it with ASU. If that is Adams legacy he hurt the state both athletically and academically


May 3rd, 2012
3:10 pm

Tech was not producing anywhere near the number of engineers that the state of Georgia needs to supply the workforce in the coming years and Tech has indicated that it has little interest in growing the size of it’s student body. It is part of the charter of the Board of Regents to be able to supply the workforce with the necessary disciplines to keep employers coming to Georgia to locate their companies. Nothing but facts there.


May 3rd, 2012
3:11 pm

He really didn’t do anything good that the HOPE scholarship did not provide. He is a scoundrel. Wonder if Billy Payne would consider taking over/


May 3rd, 2012
3:22 pm

I bet Mark Richt gives him a hug…


May 3rd, 2012
3:26 pm

Same theory applies to MCG as Tech in the above comment. MCG is not supplying the state with enough medical grads as the state has demands for and we have to look to competing neighboring states to get the medical grads to supply our doctors. The Board of Regents has shirked it’s responsibilities to provide enough spots at universities to educate the high school grads in the state, instead utilizing Auburn, Clemson, Alabama to accommodate some of those grads. It is nice to see that the BOR is finally trying to grow schools like Kennesaw, Georgia College and State, GSU (both of them) to accommodate our own grads. And it is good to see that the BOR is striving to fill the necessary engineers and doctors to meet the needs of the state. Though the concerns about the funding are founded.


May 3rd, 2012
3:27 pm

One thing forgotten about Adams and athletics, is that if Damon Evans had not gotten caught with the hooker, he would have continued running the AD into the ground. Evans was a terrible hire by Adams and it was a lucky break that Evans got busted when he did.


May 3rd, 2012
3:35 pm

Oh, and the HOPE scholarship is bankrupt, because the cost of tuition has exploded fueling lots of new buildings in Athens and billions in student loan debt. Adams was a scoundrel who stole a lot of taxpayer money.

The hypocrisy of Adams’ entire tenure is comical. Don Leebern was one of his few supporters. Adams did his best to eradicate the Greek system and systematically ban alcohol in multiple places, yet Leebern’s money, made from selling alcohol, kept Adams at the helm.

Let’s not even mention Leebern’s overt affair with Suzanne Yoculan. Adams did not have the balls to fire Yoculan for that obvious overstepping of moral boundaries.

The guy was a classic con artist. Good riddance to him and let’s hope we get a someone who actually works for a living to replace him.


May 3rd, 2012
3:36 pm

May he leave soon. The Dawg Nation will gladly help him pack his crap. Vince Dooley for Pres.


May 3rd, 2012
4:28 pm

GTBob -

“This blog will be a good case study in the difference between a football factory and an academic institution.”

How true. The article has been up for six hours and has less than forty comments. Also, notice that the typical Kool-Aid Club gang, AltamahaDawg, DawginLex, etc, did not even comment. Point made.


May 3rd, 2012
4:42 pm

Thank God Adams is leaving.


May 3rd, 2012
4:49 pm

SSIgator prepare yourself for another DAWG beating in Jacksonville this year. Jarvis Jones is looking forward to it again.

Old Dawg

May 3rd, 2012
4:54 pm

It will be good to see Darth Adams fly away in his evil starship.


May 3rd, 2012
6:23 pm

Thank god and greyhound!

Mountain Dawg

May 3rd, 2012
7:23 pm

Kissing Adams and Caleb King goodbye has made this a good year already.


May 3rd, 2012
7:25 pm

We still have to wait another 13 months for this overrated POS to leave, he is the worst thing ever to come into this state.

Wherever he goes, I hope he is a thousand miles plus from the state borders.

He cannot get outta town soon enough.


May 3rd, 2012
7:31 pm

Maybe CMR will get the President’s job, he’s been holding out for it and hasn’t signed the coaching contract.

6-18 Against End of Season Ranked Teams Since '05

May 3rd, 2012
8:02 pm

Oh No!!!! Boss Hogg (Prez Adams) is retiring!!!

What will Roscoe P. Coltrane (Mark Richt) do now?????


May 3rd, 2012
8:21 pm

Nobody here knew Michael Adams, personally, so why even comment other than the fact “you heard it here”

People depend on watching/reading news too much these days, get out and see it for yourself

32 Years and still counting... counting... counting

May 3rd, 2012
8:23 pm

The problem is not Adams. It’s never been Adams.

THE problem is Mark Richt. But just keep swilling the Kool-Aid, bless your hearts.


May 3rd, 2012
8:25 pm

We will be fortunate if we ever find another president that cares as much about the well being of our athletic dept., including football as Adams did.


May 3rd, 2012
8:35 pm

The problem may not be Adams, but isn’ t that the topic?

How did Mark Richt become part of this? Oh, you reminded everyone that he was his greatest hire.


May 3rd, 2012
9:39 pm

“engineering programs of any caliber requires”

Perhaps Tech should work on improving its English program, before worrying about Engineering supplements.